The Blue Grass Stakes is always a Kentucky Derby prep race, so that much is consistent. It has obviously never been run in July, but the pandemic has changed just about everything around the world as we know it. This race at Keeneland has been run every year since 1937, even through World War II, but the pandemic put it in danger in the spring. The July 11 date of the race may be different, but the stakes really aren’t, especially with Kentucky Derby candidates like Charlatan and Nadal out of the race and Maxfield’s future in serious doubt. A field of 13, including one filly, will be on the main track at Keeneland a few days into the July meet for this year’s Blue Grass. As important of a prep race as this is, the last Kentucky Derby winner to come from the Blue Grass Stakes was Strike the Gold all the way back in 1991. Here are the post positions, horses, trainers, jockeys, and odds for the 96th Blue Grass Stakes:
Post Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 Shivaree R. Nicks J. Velazquez 8/1
2 Finnick the Fierce R. Hernandez J. Ortiz 12/1
3 Art Collector T. Drury Jr. B. Hernandez Jr. 6/1
4 Mr. Big News B. Calhoun M. Murrill 10/1
5 Man in the Can R. Moquett T. Gaffalione 12/1
6 Hard Lighting A. Delgado R. Bejarano 50/1
7 Swiss Skydiver K. McPeek M. Smith 3/1
8 Basin S. Asmussen R. Santana Jr. 8/1
9 Attachment Rate D. Romans L. Saez 20/1
10 Rushie M. McCarthy J. Castellano 5/1
11 Hunt the Front N. Zito C. Lanerie 20/1
12 Enforceable M. Casse J. Rosario 8/1
13 Tiesto B. Mott F. Prat 15/1
We’ve got a couple long shots and a pretty spread-out set of odds for the Blue Grass this year. That sort of speaks to the uncertain crop of three-year-olds that we have. It also speaks to the fact that some trainers have pointed their horses more towards the Haskell on July 16 or the Travers at Saratoga on August 8. In any event, filly Swiss Skydiver is the favorite for trainer Ken McPeek at 3/1. Rushie is next at 5/1, with Art Collector at 6/1 from the 3 post. Basin, Shivaree, and Enforceable all have an enticing price at 8/1. Swiss Skydiver was considered for the Ashland Stakes, the filly race of the weekend, but McPeek wanted to see how she would run against the boys. Let’s break down the field and put together a $20 bet slip for the Blue Grass Stakes with a 5:30 p.m. ET post time: 1. Shivaree (8/1) – Shivaree was a surprising second in the Florida Derby at enormous odds. That was with Emisael Jaramillo in the mount, which has been the case for most of Shivaree’s races. Now trainer Ralph Nicks and owner Jacks or Better Farm have secured John Velazquez to ride the three-time winner. Shivaree has hit the board in six straight races, including a second in the Hutscheson at Gulfstream Park back in February and the same in the Swale on February 1. Shivaree has had a couple of big speed numbers in his last two races. Two of the best in his career. But, going 1 1/8 miles has only been done once and he finished 4 1/4 lengths behind Tiz the Law in the Florida Derby. The rail post is a tricky one here, but this is a race lacking speed and he has it. Verdict: Use underneath 2. Finnick the Fierce (12/1) – Finnick the Fierce just hasn’t been good enough. The speed figures don’t jump off the page and the stakes performances have mostly been disappointing. A second in the Kentucky Jockey Club last November may have set the bar a little bit too high for the son of Dialed In. The Kentucky-bred colt has hit the board in three straight races and ran well behind Nadal and King Guillermo in the Arkansas Derby, but new rider Jose Ortiz has a lot of work to do. Verdict: Not good enough 3. Art Collector (6/1) – Art Collector was the winner over Indiana Derby champ Shared Sense and Finnick the Fierce last time out on June 13 in an AlwOC at Churchill Downs. That was his third straight win. He came off of a long layoff to win on May 17 at Churchill. His previous race, also a win, was November 30. A bad start wasn’t enough o deter him in his first race back and he went wire-to-wire in what wound up being a pretty good four-horse field in that June 13 sprint. The distance could be a question here for the son of Bernardini, who has yet to run 1 1/8 miles. On the other hand, in his first dirt race of 1 1/16 miles, he dusted Shared Sense by 6 1/2 lengths. Verdict: Contender to win 4. Mr. Big News (10/1) – The son of Giant’s Causeway was a real surprising winner at the Oaklawn Stakes at a balloon number of 47/1. That was easily the best speed number of his career and it came on a wet and muddy track to beat Farmington Road and Taishan to the finish. That was a strong ride from Gabriel Saez, but it will now be Mitchell Murrill in the mount. It is hard to back a house coming off of a career-best, especially one that had been so underwhelming. It took four attempts for Mr. Big News to win his maiden and he followed it up finishing fifth in the Risen Star. Recent workouts have been good and he has a lot of experience at distance. He’s been a closer in most of his races. In a race that lacks speed, he could very well hit the board. Verdict: Use underneath 5. Man in the Can (10/1) – Tyler Gaffalione once again assumes the mount after winning last time out in a $75,000 AlwOC at Churchill Downs. In five races, Man in the Can has four wins, but the 10/1 price is an acknowledgement of the weaker fields and the below average speed figures that have come with those races. Trainer Ron Moquett got Man in the Can into that 1 1/8 mile AlwOC and he won by 1 1/2 over Ohio Derby winner Dean Martini as the race favorite. The upward trend is a positive sign, but there are too many better horses in this field. Verdict: Not good enough 6. Hard Lighting (50/1) – The longest shot on the board is Hard Lighting, the well-bred son of Hard Spun and The Magic Stone. Malibu Moon is also in the lineage, so it makes sense that Alexis Delgado would see what Hard Lighting has in a stakes race. To this point, the only win for Hard Lighting came in a race as the odds-on favorite, a $45,000 maiden on May 24 at Gulfstream Park. The odds tell it all here. We’ve seen long shots hit the board in some of the Road to the Kentucky Derby races, but this won’t be one. Verdict: Toss out 7. Swiss Skydiver (3/1) – Fillies sneak up on handicappers all the time, but Swiss Skydiver’s path to the Blue Grass Stakes has been very impressive. She won the Gulfstream Park Oaks for Paco Lopez on March 28 at 9/1. In a strong Fantasy Stakes field at Oaklawn on May 1, she won again, this time at 16/1. The odds finally adjusted in the very weak field for the Santa Anita Oaks and she won by 4 over Speech as the odds-on favorite. Some believed that Kenneth McPeek would point her towards the Ashland Stakes and then the Kentucky Oaks further down the line. Instead, he thinks he might have a Kentucky Derby horse. Mike Smith was in the mount for the Santa Anita Oaks and draws the assignment here after the gate-to-wire win. The question here is if she can go the extra 1/8 mile. She’s run twice and run extremely well at 1 1/16, but father Daredevil and mother Expo Golf were more successful as sprinters. Smith may be the deciding factor in this race because Swiss Skydiver is likely to be among those setting the pace. She’ll have to keep something in reserve. Verdict: Contender to win 8. Basin (8/1) – Most legitimate Triple Crown horses mature at three years old and start to really step up. Basin has not done that. After a maiden win and a blowout win by 6 1/2 in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, Basin has not won in 2020. In three tries, he’s been third, fourth, and a distant second with pretty pedestrian speed figures. The son of Liam’s Map just hasn’t impressed much at all. The 8/1 price is a nod to the potential that this colt still has in the eyes of many. Liam’s Map won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, so maybe Basin isn’t made for distance. His 2020 finishes certainly suggest that to be the case. The Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana Jr. tandem has been a good one at tracks across the country this year, but Basin just don’t have enough at distance to be a factor here. Verdict: Not good enough 9. Attachment Rate (20/1) – Luis Saez is back in the mount after a disappointing run for Attachment Rate at the Matt Winn Stakes. John Velazquez finished fourth and never really threatened at the 10/1 price. The son of Hard Spun had hit the board in all four previous races in 2020, but just didn’t have it in the Matt Winn. He was stalking the pace and then faded back. The top-end speed figures don’t mirror the favorites in this race, but there is something about this Dale Romans horse that feels like it can contend and break through in one of these big races. Finishing third to Mischevious Alex and Untitled wasn’t bad in the Gotham. Finishing second to Dr. Post by 1 1/2 in the Unbridled wasn’t bad. Finishing five lengths back in the Matt Winn wasn’t great, but he was bumped off-stride early and never recovered. Don’t be surprised if we get a big effort here. Verdict: Long shot to consider 10. Rushie (5/1) – Rushie has two wins in four tries as a three-year-old and will have new rider Javier Castellano in the mount for this one. Rushie hasn’t been able to replicate the speed ball 101 rating from his maiden win, but he was pretty competent in the Santa Anita Derby last month, finishing third at a 13/1 price to Honor A.P. and Authentic. Rushie is a stalker that has gone up against some of the best speed in the three-year-old class. That same speed is not on hand for this race. While others are pushing the pace for the lead, Rushie can stay away from it with the outside post. He ran at 1 1/8 in the Santa Anita and kept a pretty consistent pace throughout. Some good recent workouts could very well push Rushie into being the favorite when they hit the gate on Saturday. Like Basin, though, Rushie’s sire, Liam’s Map, was more of a sprinter. Verdict: Not good enough 11. Hunt the Front (30/1) – Nick Zito is a three-time winner of the Blue Grass Stakes, but he doesn’t have the horse here in all likelihood. This is the stakes debut for Hunt the Front, the son of Revolutionary and Best of Times. He only has one win in seven tries and that was his maiden two races ago. He followed that up by finishing seventh, 11 1/4 lengths behind Man in the Can in an AlwOC at 1 1/8 miles. It was a pretty good field with Man in the Can, Dean Martini, and Earner, who was third in the Indiana Derby on Wednesday, but he was nowhere near being a factor. He won’t be a factor here either. Verdict: Throw away 12. Enforceable (10/1) – It would be hard to call a horse race a “must-win”, but Enforceable needs to show something here. The well-bred son of Tapit and Justwhistledixie has been a major disappointment for owner John Oxley. Trainer Mark Casse has to do something different. After winning the Lecomte Stakes in his first race as a three-year-old, Enforceable has finished second to Mr. Monomoy by over two lengths in the Risen Star and fifth in the Louisiana Derby as the second favorite. None of the top-end speed numbers have been impressive enough. This will be Rosario’s first ride. This is a field that lacks the top speed that has hurt Enforceable’s closing style. He has the most experience at longer lengths of any horse in the field. This simply has to be the coming out party for this horse. Verdict: Contender to win 13. Tiesto (15/1) – Bill Mott will try again in a stakes race with Tiesto, but this time on dirt. All four of Tiesto’s previous starts came on turf and came with pretty modest speed figures. There is some strong breeding her with sire Tiznow and dam Marquee Delivery, but the fact that we’ve only seen turf runs from Tiesto is a bit concerning, especially with the far outside post and enough speed to keep him in the back. Verdict: Throw out


Man, this is a tough field. We’ve got some decent speed, a lot of different running styles, some new jockeys, some horses that have disappointed in stronger fields and some horses that have lived up to the hype. A filly has never won this race, so Swiss Skydiver is hoping to make history. Personally, I think she does it. She’s had no issue putting some distance on her wins at 1 1/16 miles. It will make for a great story to have her in the Kentucky Derby as a horse with a legit shot to win given her recent speed figures. She’s been dynamic as a three-year-old to say the least. Art Collector’s form is hard to ignore with three straight wins and a dominant win over Shared Sense, who just won the Indiana Derby. He gets into the Exacta Box here. So does Enforceable. He has been disappointing, but Rosario usually finishes rides well and a performance like the Lecomte or the Risen Star is probably enough to be a factor here. $3 Exacta Box 3/7/12 ($18) I can’t help but look at Attachment Rate and think that he has a chance at the long shot price to make some noise. Luis Saez is back in the mount, he’s brew for distance, the workouts have been decent, and has been in some races with some good speed in the past. $1 Win/Place 9 ($2) Post time for the Blue Grass Stakes is 5:30 p.m. ET on Saturday July 11.